February 6, 2012

Convo Drives Employee Engagement

A “Like” button for email?

It happens frequently: someone in your organization sends out a broad email message with some good news, or useful reference document or link.

Then you (an untold others) get a series of messages in response, many of which amount to nothing more than, “Got it, thanks.” As a participant in the thread, it’s natural to groan as you watch your Inbox fill up with well-intentioned but ultimately vacuous messages.

These respondents are probably just seeking greater engagement within the organization, a way to feel more connected, to humanize the work environment, and provide some simple feedback and affirmation.

The problem is that email is a clumsy medium to host this kind of immediate and affirmative interaction. Email is just not an engagement environment.

Employee Engagement Delivers Business Value

Many organizations are increasingly focusing on employee engagement, which is simply a measure of an employee’s enthusiasm, energy and commitment to the organization and to the quality of his or her work. It’s an emotional state that measures employees’ attachment to their organization, a willingness to perform, and a sense of ownership for the process and outcomes for their work.

It should seem obvious that positive employee engagement results in key performance metrics: better quality, improved productivity, and higher employee retention. Commitment to the organization’s mission and its outcomes should lead to improved business results, it’s safe to assume.

Employee engagement is about morale. If employees feel positively about their environment, if they feel like their work is valued and valuable, and they are committed to positive outcomes, then the morale in the workplace will be significantly improved.

And when morale is strong in an organization, personal interactions are more positive and constructive. Not only does this lead to better and more fruitful relationships among employees, it will also lead to greatly improved customer interactions. And these positive external occasions will contribute to a positive brand for the organization, which will in turn bolster the sense of mission and worth internally. A virtuous cycle indeed.

Current State: Lack of Engagement

And yet, a recent Gallup survey determined that less than a third of American workers are committed and enthusiastic about their work:

“Seventy-one percent of American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive.”

According to a major study by IBM, most HR executives struggle to effectively connect their workforce:

“78 percent of the HR leaders we interviewed do not think their organizations are effective at fostering collaboration and social networking. Yet only 21 percent have recently increased the amount they invest in the tools required to promote collaboration and networking.

As if to confirm that email does not drive this sense of engagement, a recent IABC Employee Engagement Report included the fact that companies still predominantly use email as the “communication method most used to engage employees and foster productivity” (81%), while social media was used by only 16% of participating organizations.

While, as many of us learned in High School or college science, “correlation does not mean causation,” there is a striking correlation between lack of engagement and the rampant use of email as the method used to promote engagement!

There is Another Way

Another study revealed that 98% of HR respondents say they believe that social networking is an important tool for recruiting, retaining and managing employees. If you take the numbers at face value, the gap between the 98% believers and the 21% taking action seems like an opportunity for breakthroughs in employee engagement using social media. The Convofy team certainly views it this way.

While technology alone cannot address the problem of engagement, companies are increasingly seeing social media as an expedient means to get employees engaged. In an article called Top 15 Ways to Engage Your Workforce, Workforce.com has laid out 15 suggested areas to engage employees. Internal social networks can have a direct effect on these areas, and indirectly affect the others (shown in bold in the list below).

  1. Onboarding experience 
  2. Offer clear lines of sight or alignment
  3. Feedback/communication
  4. Feeling of community
  5. Opportunities for job advancement
  6. Commitment to developing the employee
  7. Treating professionals like professionals
  8. Compensation, including non-monetary rewards
  9. Genuine investment in people
  10. Shared purpose
  11. Relationship with peers 
  12. Leadership
  13. Career development
  14. Empowerment
  15. Company image

In other words, in this context social networks can impact more than half of the areas that drive employee engagement.

Convo Drives Real Engagement

Active Convo networks report that this social environment really drives engagement. Sure, we have a “Like” button, which makes it easy to provide simple and immediate affirmation for content that is helpful.

But more than simple “Likes”, one of the characteristics of active, engaged networks that we have observed is the frequent use of comments. A comment is like a reply to an email, except that it is immediate and simple (a text entry box right below the original post), and can be as long or as brief as needed.

In other words, Likes and comments are the easiest form of response, and they definitely promote engagement and connectedness because, unlike email, they are contextualized and immediate.

The Depth and Immediacy of Engagement

We’ve also discovered that Convo networks provide longer lasting engagement than other internal social networks. That’s because tools like Yammer and Chatter provide very little depth to the network engagement. Sure, you can upload files, but there is little or no means to engage with your colleagues on that content. So they end up being little more than a notification channel for activity elsewhere on the network.

Yammer and Chatter also don’t support real-time communication, in the form of IM, group chat, presence and real-time editing. It’s harder to drive engagement on a social platform when you don’t feel the immediacy and connectedness you get with Convo’s real-time platform.

Yammer and Chatter give you neither the immediacy nor the substance that drives long-term engagement like Convo does.

Go For It

It certainly seems that Social Networks are a great way to drive employee engagement, improve organizational culture, identity and productivity. They certainly are a great improvement over email. But don’t settle for the light-weight social platforms, that ultimately can’t deliver the substantive and immediate engagement you get with Convo.

And please let us know here (by comment) how your engagement initiative works out!

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